There is a tentative agreement between Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and ranking Republican Rep. John Katko (N.Y.) on legislation to form an independent Jan. 6 commission. Ideally, such a body would make a determination as to who precisely in the House or Senate may have assisted insurrectionists, what House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said to the disgraced former president during the violence, what role white supremacy played in the assault, and how the former president not only instigated the attack but also refused to come to the aid of the Capitol. Congress must pass that legislation, and it must complete its work, overcoming inevitable claims of executive privilege and attempts to evade subpoenas.
The Justice Department will need to determine if there is a basis for prosecuting the former president on charges of tax fraud, voter fraud in Georgia and incitement to riot on Jan. 6. The Justice Department must also decide if other administration officials committed crimes and if any of the department’s lawyers failed to uphold their oaths of office and professional responsibilities. New guardrails to insulate the Justice Department must be enacted.
Fierce fights over redistricting will play out in most states. Litigation will test the extent to which partisan redistricting poses a threat to equal protection and the right to vote.
However, it is no exaggeration to say that even if pro-democracy forces prevailed on every one of these issues (and they won’t), the republic would still be imperiled if the GOP wins the House majority in 2022. I do not simply refer to the GOP’s express determination to obstruct President Biden, even when it comes to overwhelmingly popular legislation. I do not say this because of the fear that reckless House Republicans would shut down the government or default on the debt. These are entirely possible, if not probable, but the potential threat to democracy is far worse than these dangerous scenarios.
Let’s be clear: If Republicans gain the majority, McCarthy would almost certainly be elected speaker, and if not, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) or newly selected conference chair Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — who immediately signaled her loyalty to the former president — would lead the chamber. We know they take direction not from voters or the Constitution but from Mar-a-Lago. The former insurrectionist in chief could tell them not to certify any Democratic president in 2024. And it’s a good bet House Republicans would salute and comply. (They complied in 2020 but simply lacked the votes to steal the election.) If the MAGA cult leader instructed his minions to impeach Biden or Cabinet members, the likes of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) would no doubt comply.
We have seen the havoc they wreaked on our intelligence community while they were in the minority. Now imagine Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. One can bet a GOP House majority would shut down an independent commission or other body investigating Jan. 6 if it had not completed its work. The same Republicans who shared the “sick” view, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described it on Thursday, that the violent insurrectionists acted like orderly tourists would be in charge of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
In short, an unredeemed and emboldened GOP, if given majority control of the House, would behave just as irresponsibly as the former president because he would still be calling the shots. It is for this reason that no one should pine for “good” Republicans to win House races in 2022 — unless a majority pledged to acknowledge the events of Jan. 6, repudiated the “big lie,” and ruled out making McCarthy, Stefanik or another Trump stooge speaker. Since the chances of that are nil, the only way to prevent a parade of horribles would be to elect a Democratic House majority.
Only one party has shown its willingness to facilitate the peaceful transfer of power, and hence only one party should be entrusted with the authority to run the House. A House Republican caucus that signed onto a brief disenfranchising voters in states Biden won, and refusing to recognize legitimate electoral votes, is not one that should ever obtain the chance to fix a presidential election.